In the Heat of the Night (1967, rating “Approved,” 110 minutes) is a message film. The message was red hot in 1967, considering the civil rights violence of the 1960s. A black Philadelphia police officer (Sidney Poitier) risks his life to solve a murder with (sometimes) the help of the bigoted Southern white sheriff (Rod Steiger).
You know how it ends: “whitey” carries the “black boy’s” suitcase to the train platform.
It’s a fact: Heat won the award for Best Picture and Steiger grabbed an Oscar for Best Actor—I think there was some politically correct voting in the Academy that year. More than 50 years later, In the Heat of the Night is a curiosity, a caricature, almost a cartoon of racial animosity and a black man’s courage/dignity and a white man’s dalliance with decency.
Today the message in Heat has all the subtlety of a candy apple. Anyway, watch it again.
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Read the 1965 novel, In the Heat of the Night, by John Ball, which inspired the movie